Category Archives: History

In Celebration of Orest Subtelny May 17, 1941–July 24, 2016

Passed away peacefully on July 24, 2016, after succumbing to cancer and dementia. Born in Krakow, occupied Poland, on May 17, 1941, Orest came to the United States with his parents as a refugee in 1949. In his new hometown of Philadelphia he attended the renowned Central High School and was active in Plast, the Ukrainian Scouting organization, where he made many lifelong friendships, especially in his fraternity “Burlaky.” After graduating from Temple University with a BA in 1965 and from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with an MA in 1967, he completed his PhD at Harvard University in 1973 in History and Middle Eastern Studies. His thesis, entitled “Unwilling Allies: The Relations of Hetman Pylyp Orlyk with the Ottoman Porte and the Crimean Khanate,” was the first doctorate in the newly-formed Ukrainian Studies Program at Harvard. While at Harvard he met his wife, Maria, and after several memorable years as Assistant and then Associate Professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, in 1982 he moved to York University in Toronto where he was Professor of History and Political Science until his retirement in 2015. An avid soccer fan, he played for the All-American Team in college and later with the Norwood Kickers in Boston.

During his academic career he authored six books on East European and Ukrainian history, including The Mazepists: Ukrainian Separatism in the 18th Century and Domination of Eastern Europe: Native Nobilities and Foreign Absolutism, and a total of 55 articles and book chapters. During the last years of his career he was working on a history of the Plast Ukrainian Scouting movement. He was editor of the journal Nationalities Papers and an organizer of many international scholarly conferences. From 1998 to 2012 he was a director of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) projects in Ukraine.

His most important scholarly contribution was his book, Ukraine: A History, which was published by the University of Toronto Press in 1988, shortly before Ukraine’s independence. The book gave the country an authoritative history during its formative years. It has been published in four editions and translated into numerous languages. It will remain his lasting legacy to Ukraine and Ukrainians.

For his scholarly and professional contributions, he was presented with the Order of Merit by the Government of Ukraine in 2001. He was named a Foreign Member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine. He was also awarded the Shevchenko Medal by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for his outstanding contributions to the development of the Ukrainian Canadian community in the category of Education.

He is survived by his wife, Prof. Maria Subtelny; son, Dr. Alexander Subtelny of Cambridge, MA; sister, Dr. Oksana Isajiw (Irenaeus) of Newton, NJ; and by many other family members in Canada, the US, and Ukraine. Heartfelt thanks are extended to those stalwart friends who were a support during trying times; to his brother-in-law, Dr. George Luczkiw, who stepped in at crucial moments; to his physicians, Drs. Zenon Pahuta, Martin Chepesiuk, Sandra Black, and David Bitonti; and to the caring staff of Toronto Western Hospital, Humber River Hospital, and the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre.

Visitation at Turner & Porter, Yorke Chapel, 2357 Bloor St. W., Toronto, on Thursday, July 28, 2–4 pm and 6–9 pm. Panakhyda at 7:30 pm. Funeral mass on Friday, July 29 at 10 am at St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church, 135 La Rose Ave., followed by interment at Park Lawn Cemetery. Friends are invited to join the family at a Celebration of Life reception at the Old Mill Restaurant, 21 Old Mill Rd., immediately thereafter.

Setting the Record Straight: How Stalin Used Hitler To Start World War II

What is forgotten is that it was Stalin and the Soviet Union that were Hitler and Nazi Germany’s ally in starting this horrific war that took the lives of well over 50 million people, and set the stage, after the defeat of Hitler, for the nearly half-century enslavement of the eastern half of Europe under communist tyranny.

It is the fairy tale of Russian innocence and victimhood in starting and fighting the Second World War that is still used by the post-Soviet government of Vladimir Putin to justify a nostalgia for the “good old days” of Soviet power, and for the Russian president to say that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geo-political tragedy of the twentieth century.”

Among the lies and distortions of Soviet history that Vladimir Putin’s government continues to perpetuate is a downplaying of the human cost of trying to “build socialism” during the nearly 75-year reign of communist rule in the Soviet Union, from 1917 to 1991. It is estimated that as many as 64 million innocent men, women and children were killed in the Soviet Union in the name of building the socialist workers’ paradise.” (See my article: “The Human Cost of Socialism in Power.”)

The Soviet Fairy Tale About the Start of World War II

So it seems worthwhile at the time of another “victory” parade in Moscow’s Red Square to set the record straight about the start of the Second World War in Europe. First, there is the propaganda story that the Soviet government and now Putin’s government has been indoctrinating their own people with and many others around the world about Soviet foreign policy before the start of the war in Europe in September 1939. The “party line” story runs something like the following:

In the 1930s Great Britain and France had failed to show decisiveness in standing up to the growing threat from Hitler’s Germany. Stalin, in the Soviet Union, had a clearer understanding of this threat and showed greater resolve to resist fascism’s increasing power. He ended the Soviet Union’s aggressive propaganda against the West, and attempted to form a “popular front” with other anti-fascist nations and groups in Europe on the basis of “collective security.”

Britain’s and France’s appeasement policies, which allowed Hitler to occupy Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and early 1939, made Stalin realize that to save the Soviet Union from having to possibly face Nazi aggression alone without support from the Western powers, he had to “buy time” to build up Soviet military defenses.

Thus, he chose to enter into a nonaggression pact with Hitler in August of 1939. He agreed in a secret protocol of that pact to divide up Poland with Nazi Germany in the event of war breaking out, so as to widen the buffer zone separating Nazi military power from the Soviet heartland. Stalin’s fears were proven right when Hitler broke the pact in June of 1941 and invaded the USSR.

It may have been unsavory and unfortunate for the Poles, who had their nation carved up by the two totalitarian giants in September 1939; or for the Finns, who were invaded by the Red Army and lost border territory to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1939-1940; or for the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were annexed by Stalin in June 1940; or for the residents of the Romanian provinces of Bessarabia and Bukovina, which were also occupied by Stalin’s forces in June 1940. But these lands provided “breathing space” for the Soviet Union to peacefully prepare for the inevitable war and do its part, after it was invaded, to destroy the Nazi threat to humanity.

Stalin’s Plan for Bringing About World War II

This interpretation has been increasingly challenged over the last three decades. Ernst Topitsch’s Stalin’s War (1987), Viktor Suvorov’s Icebreaker (1990), Heinz Magenheimer’s Hitler’s War (1998), and Albert Weeks’ Stalin’s Other War (2002), for example, all argue that Stalin’s purpose was not to protect the Soviet Union from an early attack. Instead, Stalin’s strategy was to intentionally create the conditions for a war to more easily break out between Nazi Germany and the Western powers. Such a war would weaken the “capitalist nations” and produce the conditions for communist revolution throughout Europe at the point of Soviet bayonets and tanks. . . .

The former Soviet archives have produced a previously secret speech that Stalin delivered on August 19, 1939, four days before the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact was signed in Moscow on August 23. Stalin explained that peace prevented the spread of communism; war, on the other hand, provided the destruction and destabilization that was the entrée to revolution:

Comrades! It is in the interest of the USSR, the Land of the Toilers, that war breaks out between the [German] Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc. Everything must be done so that the war lasts as long as possible in order that both sides become exhausted. Namely for this reason we must agree to the pact proposed by Germany, and use it so that once this war is declared, it will last for a maximum amount of time.

In Stalin’s mind, if the Nazis were defeated “the Sovietization of Germany follows inevitably and a Communist government will be established.” And if the war had weakened the Western allies enough, “This will likewise ensure the Sovietization of France.”

If the Nazis were to win at the end of a long war they would be exhausted and have to rule over a large area, which would pre-occupy them from attacking the Soviet Union; and “these peoples who fell under the ‘protection’ of a victorious Germany would become our allies. We would have a large arena in which to develop the world revolution.” But regardless of the eventual victor, the Communist Parties in all these countries needed to keep up their propaganda and subversion so the groundwork would have been prepared for that revolution when the time came.

Stalin Frees Hitler to Fight Britain and France

Thus, in Stalin’s mind, Hitler’s drive for a Europe dominated by Nazi Germany was in fact a tool for him to use for advancing the global cause of communism. By freeing Hitler of the fear of a two-front war, Nazi Germany would invade Poland, the British and French might then declare war on Germany, and a prolonged war in central and western Europe would drain the capitalist nations, while leaving the Soviet Union neutral in the world conflict. This would enable Stalin to continue to build up Soviet military power, enter the war at a time of his own choosing, and bring communism to Europe through use of the Red Army.

This is why, after Hitler ordered the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, a little more than two weeks later, on September 17, 1939, Stalin ordered the Soviet occupation of the eastern half of Poland, bringing about the end of Poland on the map of Europe before September of that year had come to a close.

Hitler could now turn his military fury on to the Western Allies, Great Britain and France, and bring about that war-caused exhaustion of the “capitalist enemies” that would set the stage at some point for a Soviet victory over the European continent.

But the swift defeat and German occupation of France in June 1940 changed the configuration of forces and the likely length of the war. Hitler attempted to draw Stalin actively into the Axis alliance against the British Empire in November 1940; when that failed because Stalin’s price for participation seemed too high, Hitler ordered the plans to be set in motion for the invasion of the Soviet Union in the spring of 1941.

http://fff.org/explore-freedom/article/setting-record-straight-stalin-used-hitler-start-world-war-ii/

red poppies on the statue of Mother Motherland in Kyiv

#Ukraine’s very tragic and complex WWII history does not fit neatly into any of the myths which major power have built.

10 mountain climbers placed a wreath of red poppies on the statue of Mother Motherland in Kyiv for Remembrance Day, on May 8.

The sculpture was built in 1981 on the territory of the WWII History Museum to commemorate the victory of the Soviet Union in what was called the “Great Patriotic War.”

Today, it wears this crown of poppies, the symbol of remembrance, to remember all the victims in the war, and to recall that the war didn’t start in 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR, but was predated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, following which the USSR itself invaded a number of territories, having agreed with Nazi Germany to carve up Europe.

The director of the Institute of National Memory Volodymyr Viatrovych says that the communist hammer and sickle will be removed from the statue till the end of the year.

Last year, the wreath was placed on the statue by famous roofer Mustang Wanted.

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The gory and grotesque art of Soviet antireligious propaganda

The images below are from the Soviet anti-religious magazine, Bezbozhnik, which translates to “Atheist” or “The Godless.” It ran from 1922 to 1941, and its daily edition, “The Godless at the Workplace,” ran from 1923 to 1931. The scathing publication was founded by the League of Militant Atheists, an organization of the Soviet Communist Party members, members of its youth league, workers and veterans, so while it was in many ways a party project, it was not state-sponsored satire.

The Soviet Union adopted a formal position of state-atheism after the revolution but it wasn’t a clean break. The expropriation of church property and the murder or persecution of clergy was certainly the most obvious supplantation of power, but the USSR was a giant mass of land, most of it rural and much of it pious, so the cultural crusade against religion was an ongoing campaign for the hearts and minds of citizens who might resist a sudden massive secularization. The monstrous, violent art you see below depicted religion as the enemy of the worker and footman to capitalism. You’ll notice a wide array of religions depicted, as the USSR was very religiously diverse.

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More: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_gory_and_grotesque_art_of_soviet_antireligious_propaganda1

Today’s DNR/LNR look a lot like Stalin’s “partisans”.

(My favorite Motyl article so far.)

Alexander Gogun’s excellent study, Stalin’s Commandos: Ukrainian Partisan Forces on the Eastern Front, sometimes reads like an analysis of Putin’s commandos in the eastern Donbas. In both cases, the official Moscow line was and is that they’re a popular movement generated by discontent from below. In fact, Stalin’s commandos, like Putin’s, were largely creatures of the Kremlin—a point Gogun, a Russian scholar currently based at the Free University in Berlin, makes forcefully, repeatedly, and convincingly.

Gogun details how the partisans were structured and led (from abroad), what they did (terrorism) and whom they fought (the Germans and Ukrainians), how they interacted with the local population (with abandon), what their behavior looked like (robbery, drunkenness, and rape), and how they compared with the Ukrainian nationalist insurgents, the UPA, and the Polish nationalist guerrillas, the Home Army (AK). One table (p. 160) has a wealth of information: the 11 largest units of the Soviet Ukrainian partisan movement consisted of 45,478 fighters. Just over 11 percent were killed; 2 percent were executed or deserted; 7 percent were women; 57 percent were Ukrainians, 25 percent were Russians, and only 13 percent were members of the Communist Party. Their job was not to defend the people, but to fight the Germans, regardless of the exceedingly high toll the local population paid for their actions. Both the UPA and AK, in contrast, were careful to defend the people they claimed to represent.

Unsurprisingly, Stalin’s commandos were most active in the forest and marsh regions of northern and northwestern Ukraine. That fact greatly contributed to one of the major secondary-theater wars during World War II: the bloody Ukrainian-Polish conflict in Volhynia. As Gogun’s evidence demonstrates, the presence of Soviet partisans in this volatile region populated by large numbers of indigenous Ukrainian peasants and many Poles, both indigenous and recent settlers, may have sparked the large-scale violence that engulfed both communities in mid-1943.

Ethnic relations were anything but simple in Volhynia. The Germans terrorized the Poles and Ukrainians and fought the UPA, AK, and the Soviets. Many Poles, and above all the AK, viewed Ukrainians in general and Ukrainian nationalists in particular as their sworn enemies and sympathized with the Soviets, especially after the Polish government-in-exile allied with Moscow by means of the Sikorski-Maisky Pact of July 30, 1941. Many Ukrainians, and above all Ukrainian nationalists, viewed Poles, the AK, and the Soviets as their sworn enemies and the Germans as their situational allies (in early 1941 and 1944) or their situational enemies (1941-1943). The Soviets regarded the Germans and Ukrainian nationalists as their enemies, mistrusted the Ukrainians, and viewed the Poles and the AK as situational allies.

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/alexander-j-motyl/stalin%E2%80%99s-partisans-ukraine

Lithuania opens war crimes trial of former Soviet officials

Dozens of former Soviet military officials have gone on trial in Lithuania accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during a crackdown on a pro-independence movement in 1991.

Russia has refused to cooperate with the investigation and most of the accused, who live outside Lithuania, will not attend the trial, which coincides with heightened tensions between Moscow and Vilnius over the Ukraine crisis.

Prosecutors say 14 civilians were killed by the Soviet army in January 1991, all but one of them during the storming of the state television headquarters and TV tower by Soviet paratroopers. More than 700 others were wounded.

In March 1990 Lithuania had become the first Soviet republic to declare independence from Moscow. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved in December 1991.

The former Soviet defence minister Dmitry Yazov, now 91, is the highest-ranking person in the list of 65 former military officials and army officers charged by Lithuania’s chief prosecutor. They are all citizens of Russia, Belarus or Ukraine.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/27/lithuania-opens-war-crimes-trial-former-soviet-officials

Kulchitsky at the Battle of Vienna 1683

The Cossacks joined forces with the Austrian and Polish troops who were also outside the city, and together they waited for an opportune time to attack. But before such an attack could be made, an understanding as to the time of the attack had to be made between the allied forces and the besieged Viennese. The attack had to be simultaneous from within the city and from without of it to succeed at all.

Some one from the city had to steal through the Turkish encampment, get to the allied forces and notify them when the joint attack was to be made.

Of the few who volunteered to undertake this exceedingly dangerous task, a Ukrainian trader and former Cossack, who at that time happened to be in Vienna, was chosen. His name was George Kulchitsky. He was chosen chiefly because he could easily pass for a Turk since he had previously spent ten years in Turkey, where he ran a coffee house.

Stealing out of the city walls on August 13th, Kulchitsky boldly started to walk through the huge Turkish camp, consisting of over 25,000 tents, singing various Turkish ditties and songs with which he was well acquainted. This impudence nearly proved to be his undoing, for his singing attracted the attention of a high Turkish officer, who, liking Kulchitsky’s singing, asked him to step into his tent and entertain him further. After treating him with some coffee, the Turkish officer asked Kulchitsky who he was. Kulchitsky, without losing any of his equanimity replied that he was a Turkish buyer, who had joined the Turkish forces in order to perhaps run across some good business. He convinced the Turk so well that the latter even advised him how to get some business.

In this manner did Kulchitsky, principally because of his coolness and courage in the face of danger and because of his brazen effrontery, manage to reach the Ukrainian Cossacks and their allies, deliver his message, and then return the same way back to Vienna on the 17th of August. The rest is a matter of common knowledge. As a reward for his bravery Kulchitsky was awarded the huge stores of coffee which the Turks in their hurry had left. The Christians did not want it since in those days very few of them drank coffee.

With this coffee Kulchitsky opened up the first coffee house in Europe, which with the passage of time, grew to be very popular with the Viennese, and in Europe as well. Today, this original coffee house of Kulchitsky’s still stands on the same spot in Vienna.

More: http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1933/013307.shtml

***

About the Battle of Vienna:

458 years ago, Ivan the Terrible invaded Old Livonia and almost exterminated a people

458 years ago, Ivan the Terrible invaded Old Livonia and almost exterminated a people

The Zaporozhian Cossacks fought on the side of the Livonians against the Russian-Mongolian alliance.

***

Livonian war started today 458 years ago, on January 22nd 1558, when Ivan IV, the Terrible’s forces crossed the borders of Old Livonia. Pretext was unpaid taxes for few hundred years (!) by city of Tartu. The actual reason was to conquer these areas by the Baltic sea. This however did not happen – Ivan IV was able to conquer large part of these areas for some time but at the conclusion of the war at 1580 the Northern Estonia came under Sweden and Southern Estonia under Poland. Also, Ivan the Terrible lost in 1573 his closest adviser Maljuta Skuratov (one of the most odious leaders of the Oprichnina) during the siege of Paide.

For Estonia the events 458 years ago marked the beginning of probably the most grievous period in its history. It is estimated that only 10-25% of the population survived the 60 year war period (the war of 1600-1620 between Sweden and Poland was continuation of Livonian war). Most churches, manors, towns and other buildings/settlements were burned to the ground. Exact information is lacking because no survey (if there even was one) data has survived. And due to this extremely long and grievous war there are very little written information about middle ages in Estonia. Only exception being the city archives of Tallinn (Ivan the Terrible did not manage to capture Tallinn despite two serious sieges) and few smaller private archives. So this war destroyed large part of our written history up to this point and only few fragments of it have survived.

(translation of Valdo’s original post below)

Declassified documents prove U.S. DID help cover up 1940 Katyn massacre where Soviets slaughtered 22,000 Polish officers

Newly declassified U.S. army documents reveal that two American POWs sent secret coded messages to Army intelligence after their 1943 visit to Katyn, pointing to Soviet guilt for the 1940 massacre.

After witnessing rows of corpses in the Katyn forest, on the western edge of Russia, the American POWs told Washington they believed the Nazi claims that Soviets had carried out the killings of 22,000 Polish officers.

Having seen the advanced state of decay of the bodies, the POWs concluded that the killings must have been carried out by the Soviets rather than the Nazis who had only recently invaded the area surrounding the Katyn forest.

The documents shed further light on decades of suppression of Soviet guilt within the U.S. government which began during WWII when the blame for the massacre was being pointed at Nazi Germany.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2201226/Declassified-documents-prove-U-S-DID-help-cover-1940-Katyn-massacre-Soviets-slaughtered-22-000-Polish-officers.html

Albert Camus might have been killed by the KGB for criticising the Soviet Union, claims newspaper

When the French philosopher, author and inveterate womaniser Albert Camus died in a car accident in 1960 just two years after winning the Nobel prize for literature, France’s intellectual beau monde mourned what seemed an almost freakish tragedy.

In Camus’s pocket was an unused return train ticket from his home in Provence to Paris. The 46-year-old writer had intended to travel back after the Christmas holidays by train with his wife Francine and their teenage twins Catherine and Jean. Instead, his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard offered to drive him.

Camus was killed instantly when Gallimard’s powerful Facel Vega car left the icy road and ploughed into a tree. Gallimard died a few days later. As well as the train ticket, police found 144 pages of handwritten manuscript in the wreckage entitled The First Man, an unfinished novel based on Camus’s childhood in Algeria and which he had predicted would be his finest work. The tragedy shocked and saddened France. But no one imagined that the crash had been anything other than an accident.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has now suggested that Soviet spies might have been behind the crash. The theory is based on remarks by Giovanni Catelli, an Italian academic and poet, who noted that a passage in a diary written by the celebrated Czech poet and translator Jan Zábrana, and published as a book entitled Celý život, was missing from the Italian translation.

In the missing paragraph, Zábrana writes: “I heard something very strange from the mouth of a man who knew lots of things and had very informed sources. According to him, the accident that had cost Albert Camus his life in 1960 was organised by Soviet spies. They damaged a tyre on the car using a sophisticated piece of equipment that cut or made a hole in the wheel at speed.

“The order was given personally by [Dmitri Trofimovic] Shepilov [the Soviet foreign minister] as a reaction to an article published in Franc-tireur [a French magazine] in March 1957, in which Camus attacked [Shepilov], naming him explicitly in the events in Hungary.” In his piece, Camus had denounced the “Shepilov Massacres” – Moscow’s decision to send troops to crush the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

A year later, Camus further angered Soviet authorities when he publicly supported the Russian author Boris Pasternak, a fellow Nobel laureate and author of Doctor Zhivago, a work banned by Stalin. Corriere della Sera concludes that there were enough reasons for “Moscow to order [Camus’s] assassination, in the usual professional style of its KGB agents”. If true, it would reopen wounds among the millions of devotees of Camus’s work.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/07/albert-camus-killed-by-kgb